The Black Plague (Black Death)

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The Black Plague (Black Death)
The Black Plague was a disease that arrived in Europe in 1347. It came from fleas on rats and was brought to Europe by the ships that had traveled from Asia. The first places that were struck were along the Italian coast.

When first infected with the disease, large painful swellings known as bubose began to appear all over an infected person’s body. The person would get a fever, cough up blood, and die within 4-5 days. What the people of Europe did not know, was that it was very contagious. They did not yet understand microscopic disease (germs), and therefore they could not stop the disease’s spread. Within 4 years it had killed over one half of Europe’s population (100-200 million people).

The results of the Plague on Europe were many. First off, many people lost faith in the Roman Catholic Church for their inability to stop the spread of the disease, although many brave priests and monks went into towns affected by the plague and took care of the sick. Also, monarchs became more powerful because of the outbreak of famine (lack of food) and war, when kingdoms began to compete for resources. Feudalism also changed. With so few people left to farm, knights, lords and vassals had to pay serfs for their work.

  1. How did the Plague first arrive in Europe?

  2. Why did it spread so quickly in Europe?

  3. Knowing what you know about disease, how could the spread have been prevented?

  4. What effect did the Black death have on Feudalism?

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